LONDON and NEW YORK — Just as IQOS is making its way into American markets, a major tobacco competitor, British American Tobacco (BAT), has filed a lawsuit against Philip Morris International (PMI), the maker of the heat-not-burn device, for allegedly infringing on BAT’s patents, according to Reuters.
In two separate lawsuits, BAT said the device attribute in question is the heating blade technology used by the IQOS device, which London-based BAT alleges was in its “glo” tobacco-heating product, Reuters reported April 9. If successful, BAT hopes to block importation of IQOS into the United States unless it agrees to license the patents, the news agency reported.
“We’re aware that BAT has filed legal actions,” said a spokesperson for New York-based PMI in a statement provided to CSP Daily News. “We believe the allegations are without merit, and we are fully prepared to defend ourselves. PMI is the global leader and pioneer in heated tobacco products, having invested over $7 billion over the past two decades to develop scientifically substantiated smoke-free alternatives.”
Through an agreement with PMI, Richmond, Va.-based Altria Group has begun introducing IQOS into the United States, starting with rollouts in Atlanta and Richmond. But the upheaval from the coronavirus pandemic has forced Altria to shutter the IQOS stores it opened and to suspend in-person marketing efforts. The device’s compressed tobacco heat sticks are still sold in convenience stores and other retail outlets in those markets, officials said during an April 30 earnings call. Officials also said they have suspended plans to introduce IQOS into their next U.S. market, Charlotte, N.C., due to the pandemic.